Goforth And Pitch

David Goforth had come out of the bullpen last season and been successful. He wasn't sure what his role might be this spring, until Jake Morgan was lost for the season last fall.

Morgan underwent Tommy John surgery and somebody had to take the closer's place. The right-hander from Canton had been ultra successful in 2009 as a third-year sophomore. He had 27 relief appearances with a 4-1 record and nine saves in 41.2 innings. The year before as a redshirt freshman, Morgan had 19 appearances and 41.1 innings to establish himself as a dependable reliever.

Goforth stepped in as a set-up man last season with 25 relief appearances. He wound up with a 1-1 record and three saves in 35.1 innings of work. This season Goforth will be making the long walk to the bullpen to finish things up, not trying to be Morgan, just trying to close things out for his team – Goforth style.

"Last year I was the setup guy for Jake, and this year really nothing's changed as far as the mentality or as far as how I approach hitters," said the Neshoba Central High School alumnus. "It's just basically a title. Closer. I'm just going to go out there and keep attacking guys the way I always have. Just go out there and try to shut the door for the team."

Goforth said when he found out Morgan was out for the year, he was disappointed for Morgan and for the team.

"First of all, it was unfortunate to hear," he said. "You definitely didn't want to hear that, and it was kind of hard to take."

Goforth felt his name would be called and that his team and coaches would be counting on him.

"I kind of knew then that it was time for me to step up and take over that role," the Philadelphia native said. "There's really no room for error (as a closer). Somedays when you don't have your stuff, you still have to go out there and compete. If you come in in the ninth and you're up one run, there's really no room to mess around. You can't have walks and allow guys to get on. You really have to compete and make the pitches. Whereas if you're a starter and you don't have your stuff, you might can keep battling and make it to the fourth or fifth (inning). But as a closer, it's now or never."

Obviously Goforth understands the role he's in. Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said he and the coaching staff have a lot of confidence in the 5-foot-10, 186-pound right-hander.

"David's been in the bullpen before, and it was an obvious choice to start with him there," he said. "His slider is much improved from last year. He's got a tremendous fastball. He's very athletic on the mound. He holds runners. He's got a good pickoff move. He does a lot of things that make you believe he will do a great job at the end of games. He can shut the running game down. He throws balls into the strike zone. He does a good job fielding his position. If it's late in the game and it's a close game, you'll have to field bunts and do those type things. He can do all those things."

Goforth already has a strong fast ball. He's been working on his changeup to give him additional weapons on the mound.

"It's coming along," he said. "We've been working on it. I don't throw it as much in the games. It's more of a bullpen pitch right now. I'm just trying to improve it, and it's getting better."

Goforth, a mature player who seems suited for the important role of closer, said he's also available to start, if that's ever the case with his team.

"That's one thing I've talked to Coach Bianco about," he said. "I took the initiative to go into his office and meet with him to talk about that, and that it was a possibility that I could do that. I started my whole high school career. When I came here, the bullpen role was new to me. Pitching for only one or two innings, that's what was new to me. So I told him if the team needed me to do that, I'd be able to. Right now closing is it to start off. But (starting) is an option, and I'd definitely be willing to step into that role."

Goforth said while he can only be himself out there, he has learned from Morgan the past couple of years.

"Just his mentality," he said. "Jake's a hard-nosed guy. Last year we knew if he had the ball, we were going to win the game. It was a security for the team. When he came in, we knew he was going to close the door and we had it wrapped up. That's one thing I've tried to take from him is just that mentality. Being able to come in, know you're going to make the pitch, know there's no situation that's going to be too big. Just staying within yourself, and hopefully I'll be able to do the same things he did."

If that's the case, the Rebels will indeed be in good shape when the game is on the line late.

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